“ Genre: Horror / Theatrical Release: 2007 / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Oren Peli / Actors: Amber Armstrong, Ashley Palmer, Mark Fredrichs, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat ... / DVD released 2010-03-22 at Icon Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL „
* Prices may differ from that shown
In lieu of the latest episode of this franchise just being released at the cinema in time for Halloween (this series being Halloween's new replacement for the Saw films!), I decided to sit down, watch and review the film that started them all....
Another of those "Found Footage" films, the story follows Katie and Micah as they attempt to videotape paranormal nocturnal activities in their home in a bid to explain them away. But it is not until a psychic turns up to talk to them both that we learn that all of this has happened before. Katie has been "followed" around by a vengeful spirit since she was 8 years old!
As the pair video their experiences, and Micah messes with a Ouija board despite advice not to, the activities worsen and soon escalate.....all leading to a climatic ending a la Blair Witch that is as expected as it is disappointingly obvious!
This is an okay film but if you are a veteran of.....well, let's say the [REC] films.....then this ain't gonna scare you much! Without giving anything away, this film is all about scary noises and strange goings on and not much else. Unlike many films, this probably has more impact viewing at home rather than the cinema as every house has its fair share of scary noises late at night and home viewing this before bed is more likely to put the willies up you! Unfortunately the whole "Found Footage" thing has been done before numerous times and films such as Cloverfield and [REC] have kinda set the benchmark now for what to expect. In many ways then, this film is a step backwards! I t is wise to note that even [REC]3 has stepped away from the hand-held camera footage gimmick in its latest installment of the franchise and, for me, the scariest thing about this film was the number of people who walked out of the cinemas allegedly half-way through watching this because they were scared. I mean...really?!?
The extras on the DVD include an alternative ending that adds little to the film and some short amateur entries that try to emulate this movie on a domestic rather than professional level. Neither of these are particularly enough to justify buying this though!
Try watching [REC] for real horror.....this is scares for Sissies #101 and really not much more....
Presented in much the same vein as the Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity offered itself as a true, found-footage shocker of a docu-film. It suggested the actors were real, that the footage was entirely genuine and the actions depicted within as unexplained as they come. Of course I was clever enough to know this was a simple ruse... (OK so I learned my lesson after being caught out by Blair Witch... ahem...) Whilst some people were daft/open-minded enough to believe the thinly veiled suggestion of reality, most people took it for what it was... a low budget shocker. Wrong again. This film actually turned out to become easily one of my top five films ever, for the very reason that many others hated the film; very little happens. It's very rarely the scale of the action that is occurring that makes me scream, it's the unfaltering build up to each tiny noise, and bump and shadow.
Telling the story of Katie and Micah, the footage appears to be handheld camera footage, from a camera bought by Micah and used to document the strange goings on at night. Breaking the cliche that everything scary happens in the dark, many of the bumps and scares happen in daylight, although they obviously employ night vision perfectly, making me scream out loud many a time. In one particular scene in the cinema, I heard one poor girl let out the most blood-curdling scream, only to be told that it was actually me who had made that sound!
Many of the scares in the film rely on good old bangs and barely there shadows but it is the build up that makes this film a revelation. Watching Katie stand over Micah for almost three hours (sped up- don't worry!) whilst he sleeps conjures up many sights in our mind, of Katie killing him, of Micah jumping awake, of a door slamming, when actually Katie simply walks out of the room. This somehow becomes more terrifying because with every near miss you become more and more aware that a scare is on its way, and you get edgier and edgier the longer you wait for it to come. The timing of the film is incredible and leaves you gasping for air throughout the film.
When you realise there are two characters carrying the whole film, especially through a hand held camera, I did get concerned that the action would be at risk of becoming cliche, finding reasons to make Katie walk upstairs on her own, but the conniving, slightly underhand character of Micah pushes the drama forward, without becoming too predictable, and we understand why Katie makes many of the decisions that she does. And the use of the hand held camera aids in building the tension beautifully, as we often see what the character sees at the same time as them, if not slightly after they do, which will set your heart a-pounding!
So many people I know haven't seen this film, and I am always so baffled! Even if horror isn't your genre of choice you should still watch this film for what it is, a technical piece of intelligent film, amping up the terror in ways other films can only dream of.
- Story -
Kate and Micah are an average couple who have recently become afflicted with what seem to be some sort of paranormal activity, hearing footsteps and voices during the night when there's clearly no-one there. Katie admits to Micah that as a child, she was bothered by similar events and she feels that there is something out there that wants to get in touch with her, which scares her. Micah is alot more sceptical but agrees to try and help out by documenting what occurs, so he purchases a semi professional camcorder/video camera and hooks it up to a laptop so he can film during the night and analyse the footage afterwards. When they invite somebody who knows about ghosts in, he can sense that what their dealing with is quite powerful and warns them that things could get quite bad. What happens, who is after Katie and why? can they escape it?.
- More info., Thoughts & Opinions -
This movie is kind of like the Blair Witch project only set in a house - a modern American house. The movie is mainly filmed by one of the characters, Micah, who's curious about the quirky activity that goes on in the house at night and decides to purchase a fairly professional camera/camcorder and film things, including leaving the camera facing their bed at night.
Micah is your typical 'macho man', not wanting to let whatever ghost or entity thats supposedly been 'doing the rounds' get the better of them and ruin Katie's life, so he sets up the camera and a laptop so that he can view the footage and analyse it the following day, including searching for previously inaudible audio recorded at the time the paranormal activity occurs. Its all quite slight what happens, alot of it consisting of noises in the distance and suggestive um things (movements/shadows), there certainly isn't any bloody violence or visible big green monster, its not that sort of movie and so in that way it is quite similar to the Blair Witch Project, whereby as you watch it and you see and hear what the characters do, you can become sucked into their world and find it rather chilling. Again I take issue with movies like this being categorised purely as a horror movie, to me a horror movie means a slasher movie but this really isn't that, like I say, its more a ghost story.
I felt that the characters were quite well thought out in a sense, in that I shared the scepticism that Micah clearly had at the start of the movie and throughout, while Katie's nerves/anxiety and the turn of events had me feeling protective and nervous for her as well, as the movie continued. Their performances were quite good, which is why I felt that they were both relatable, although it might have helped to know a bit more about their personal/family backgrounds perhaps - the only real mention of this is in relation to Katie and the fact that she claims she's been suffering from these strange paranormal activities since she was a child living with her sister.
One reason why the movie is somewhat chilling, I think, is that the build-up is so slow, everything that happens seems fairly plausible, even slightly mundane in a sense, if you were to separate each individual 'event'. You get the sense that something big is approaching but you don't know for sure what it is or when it will strike, if there's anything that can be done to stop it etc. and thats how the movie works. When they play back the footage filmed the night before and you see again what was shown moments before, its pretty engrossing and you feel like your there with them huddled over the laptop analysing it and trying to make sense of it.
However, this film is definitely not perfect. My main 'pet hate' from this movie was that I found it hard to follow some of the dialogue - given the majority of the movie is filmed by Micahs camera, some shots are (ie deliberately) out of focus and so also the audio kind of drops out at points where they don't have mics on, thus it seems more realistic I guess but not being American I found myself turning the volume up and having missed pieces of the dialogue from time to time which was became rather frustrating. Also the fact that the story is quite slow and mainly suggestive, some could say its not really scary (im not sure they were really aiming for this to be a 'scary' movie, again creepy or chilling is more applicable) and given its horror categorisation, this could disappoint some. The ending may annoy some too, or it may be what others think just about redeemed it, I suppose it depends... its pretty sinister but it doesn't give everything away and your still left with questions, which is maybe a good thing, again it depends on what you prefer but personally I felt that it was a shame there were many questions left unanswered. Of course this leaves it open for a sequel, which I believe has already been released - I can't say I'll be rushing out to watch it, given that sequels are rarely better than their original movie, I believe this, the original, did quite well in the box office which is probably the main reason behind doing the sequel (at a guess), so I may or may not check out the sequel.
Now that its the following day (I watched it the night before I'm posting this review), thinking back at it I don't feel as impressed with it as I maybe was then(?) I'm not sure, I don't think its brilliant but at the same time, there is something about it that works fairly well. I can't quite decide whether this is a movie that would stand up to multiple viewings either, it probably depends on what your looking for, whether you don't mind that the actual 'hauntings' if it were, are quite slight and not particularly frequent - in a way that makes them spookier I suppose, we're not sure exactly when they'll occur or quite what will happen and although its only small things that we see happening at first, I guess it has to start small so that the end event does scare us more as we hadn't seen such things happening earlier (if that makes sense or am I over-thinking this?). I did feel that maybe some of the scenes set in the daytime could have been cut down a bit though, they are a little boring at times.
The movie has a 15 rating which in a sense could seem a bit extreme as in a way not much happens for the main part of the movie but I think its fair to say that its gained that certificate due to what they'd probably call a prevailing sense of fear and endangerment or sustained threat. How absorbing and how effective ultimately, I suppose, this movie is really all depends on how attached to the characters you become and how much you believe what you see - this is certainly not a movie for real sceptics.
There's the issue with the audio and the other unanswered questions relating to Katie's background, when I thought about it, I also wondered how it seemed to be that the couple were around the house so often, when Katie mentions that she's studying to be a teacher - surely she'd be busy at University studying/attending lectures etc etc? the movie is set in September through to October 2006 and the only time in the whole movie that you see her doing anything relating to her studies is in one scene where she's in the house reading a textbook and studying as Micah annoys her shoving his camera in her face...(!). Other scenes show Katie with her sister having girly chit-chats in the house (and when I think about that, why would she want to invite her sister to her house given everything going on there? though her sister invites Katie to join her at her house but she declines).
Having said that, the scenes in the movie span across many different days and we're generally shown scenes obviously during the night, first thing in the morning and in the evening so I suppose they would tend to be home at those times but when i was thinking about it, I did feel like perhaps it wasn't so realistic in that way...if that makes sense(?).
- Would I Recommend It? -
This is a difficult one - I think I'd recommend giving it a watch, perhaps renting it or catching it on TV if this is something that really interests you but its certainly not without its flaws. I feel that this is a fairly entertaining and absorbing movie that does work pretty well if you draw your curtains and switch the lights off before watching it but if you analyse it, its, like I say, far from perfect. Compared to some similar movies, its good but if your looking for a really scary movie, I'd recommend that you look elsewhere, although this is still worth a watch for other reasons. Its pretty short as a movie and the characters are pretty good, as long as you don't think things through too much and all the rest, you should enjoy it.
Thanks for reading my review, I hope you found it useful and thanks for all rates and comments. This review was originally posted at Ciao UK.
Let's have a quick look back over popular culture's (comparatively) recent past...because the future ain't bright enough to require the wearing of shades these days.
'Listen... do you smell something?'
I'm old enough to remember a more sensible time. A time when judgment and consensus were gradual things, and when initial opinion was allowed to evolve into a more considered conclusions. But not anymore. In an age of hype and hyperbole, shades of grey have been swiftly overwhelmed by the encroaching armies of black and white. For while the past few years have spawned a legion of Channel Four '100 Best...' shows with their endless ranking lists, the media still prefers the idea that everything is either the greatest or the worst ever. Thus that same period has apparently coincided with the greatest glut of 'the scariest movie ever's since the Lumiere brothers visited the patent office. Since 'The Exorcist' we've had the likes of 'The Shining', 'The Silence of the Lambs', 'S7ven', 'The Blair Witch Project', 'Big Momma's House 2'...and now the latest sledgehammer-marketed contender, 'Paranormal Activity'. It's easy to be cynical, but given that Paramount spent $300k to acquire the rights before spending $10m on the promotion when the flick made by a video game programmer who'd never made a feature film before (and probably didn't think he was making one here) cost the princely sum of $15k in the first place...presumably someone at the studio thought they were onto something. And seeing as 'Paranormal Activity' is now the most profitable film ever made, that person had a point.
'Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!'
Even though its DNA is resolutely 'indie', there is one way in which 'Paranormal Activity' fits perfectly into the modern studio machine: it's pretty much devoid of a plot. Instead, what we have is A Situation: a situation that gradually unravels and deteriorates under the stresses of a repetitive-but-escalating series of events. It's a bit like the recurring episodic sketches on The Fast Show in that respect.
We are introduced to a young couple: Micah and Katie, who live in a very ordinary house in the suburbs of San Diego. They have been bothered by noises in the night, and so Micah has bought a video camera to attempt to capture the odd occurrences on film. From thereon in the film follows a constant cycle: Micah will set up the camera in the corner of their bedroom overnight, and the following day will see the couple react to the events of the wee small hours while Micah pores over the footage in an attempt to work out what the hell is going on. And as things get more and more ominous he gets more and more irritated-cum-confused while she goes from perturbed, to frightened, to absolutely terrified.
Erm, that's it.
So, never mind the humungous hype and the reductio-ad-absurdium of a storyline...is this really the most frightening movie ever made? Hell, is it actually any good at all?
'Don't cross the streams...'
Well, obviously it isn't the former, and I suspect that even the perspective afforded by time won't anoint it with that particular crown. But for those in the mood, it's most definitely the latter, in spades. And for those not in the mood, if you're dead set on not being scared...well, 'The Twilight Saga' is available on DVD/Blu-ray boxset right now...off you go then.
Because this is most definitely a slow burn of a film, and those whose brains are conditioned to the pacing of conventional movies (especially those in the horror genre) will be fidgety. Its effectiveness comes from the mundane nature of the characters (to whom one is thoroughly introduced, because you never care about the fate of folk you don't really know) and especially the setting: this isn't some dark gothic castle fabricated through the flourishes of a set-designer. This is obviously someone's house (actually it belongs to the director), and it's a house to which a large slice of the audience can probably relate. It's something bad happening to someone like you in some place you might sleep.
The Someones Like You (who, in a handy coincidence, share the names of the actors portraying them) carry a considerable dramatic burden given that they are on screen 99% of the time (there's a psychic investigator who turns up a couple of times before unease gets the better of him (rarely a good sign), and a fleetingly glimpsed friend of Katie's presumably included to establish her life outside of the house): given the film's vérité style it's critical that you never notice that the protagonists are 'acting'. To this end, Katie Featherstone is deeply unshowy and believable. Chirpy, harassed, exasperated and terrified in turn, she makes her predicament both ghastly and easy to buy into. Hounded by an unseen force she cannot escape from, it's a good job she has a fabulous boyfriend to turn to, isn't it?
'I make it a rule never to get involved with possessed people...actually, it's more of a guideline than a rule'
In a word...'no'. It's hard to think of a scary movie where at least one character doesn't do something wilfully stupid and illogical in order to advance the plot (a quick sweep of my own memory couldn't come up with any save for The Exorcist itself), and in 'Paranormal Activity' we have Micah Sloat to rely upon. Micah, bless him: one can only imagine what he might do if presented with a more promising scenario such as living next door to a spooky cemetery guarded by platoons of flesh-eating zombies and with a deranged axe murderer on the loose, but he still performs admirably in a house with a few odd noises. Any sympathy one might have for his personal sample of supernatural suffering quickly dissipates once the audience discovers just how much of a geeky alpha male pillock he is. For instance...
1) Upon acquiring the camera, Micah begins by behaving like one of those Christmas Day bores who films absolutely everything anyone does, before making the logical (and equally tedious) progression to repeatedly attempting to persuade Katie to have sex with him on film. You know, like a sixteen year old boy who's simultaneously discovered both a) the joyous concept of a disposable income, and b) his penis.
2) Having promised his girlfriend that he'll listen to the psychic investigator and NOT buy a Ouija board in an attempt to communicate with Whatever It Is, he goes and gets one anyway. But hey, it's alright. After all, he borrowed it, and his promise only covered his not buying one. Women always fall for that, don't they?
3) In the midst of a particularly memorable night time sequence (doors slamming, more noise than the Monsters Of Rock festival, etc.), he leaves his girlfriend to go exploring the loft. Like you would.
4) And best of all, he treats the malevolent otherworldly presence lurking in the house as being less a colossal threat to his and (more particularly) his girlfriend's body and soul, more an inconvenience that grates a bit in its unwillingness to be explained and controlled. Therefore he manages to ignore the escalating terror of his significant other in favour of treating the situation like a cool puzzle to be solved: never a good idea when thinking doesn't seem to be your strong point.
Despite all this, he does come across as 'real', which is critical for a film like this, But one hopes that Mr Sloat isn't this annoying in real life, although it's worrying that the actors apparently improvised all their own dialogue. And one can't help but think that Katie would be better off with the source of her terror. At least it's deeply interested in her inner soul.
'FOUR FEET above her covers...'
The daylight sequences serve to introduce these protagonists and make some sense of the nocturnal occurrences, but they also try to cover some of the narrative holes that many horror films leave unplugged. (Why don't they just leave the haunted house? Why don't the pair of them ever seem to do any work? Both answered with dialogue that doesn't seem bolted on as exposition). But it's in the dead of night sequences with the camera locked to a tripod in the corner of the bedroom as the couple sleep that the film delivers to anyone willing to do any receiving. Through repeated prolonged exposure to that one shot the audience becomes so familiar with how it should look that the slightest change or movement is enormously amplified (especially when you factor in the sound). And the shot itself is so brilliantly framed: a relentlessly ticking time clock in the corner, a bed filling most of the right hand side, and an enormous big space on the left into which something might or might not jump. And most troubling of all, the open bedroom door leading out to the universal fear that is 'an upstairs darkened hallway'. I don't know about you, but personally I'd have kept it shut. Or left the lights on.
It's easy to consider this all to be very 'Blair Witch Project' but that would be misleading: all it really shares with that movie is the low-fi execution and the largely unseen threat. This is a much more streamlined proposition, devoid as it is of an invented mythology, and much less coy about throwing in overt 'jump' moments. Also its setting is more universal by comparison: I think we've all lived in a house at some point, whereas hardly anyone in their right mind has ever gone overnight camping in the middle of the woods.
No, the comparisons are more validly made with the likes of 'The Exorcist' or 'The Entity' (a slightly cheesy but bloody scary saga of bad hair and supernatural sexual assault from the early 80s), each of which feature a young female attracting the unwelcome interest of something demonic. There have also been plenty of previous movies (such as the original version of 'The Haunting') where a very palpable air of menace has been carried by nothing more than suggestion and sound design. But possibly most relevant of all would be John Carpenter's 'Halloween': a movie where the frame often contains a big dark space in which something awful might happen, and the nice cosy bosom of suburbia is shown to be absolutely lethal.
'That's a big Twinkie...' (DVD Extras)
1) The inevitable commentary from editor/producer/writer/director/landlord Oren Peli. Given that the film was shot in his house, one might have hoped for loads of crazy anecdotes about how Katie Featherstone kept hogging the bathroom and leaving the toilet seat down, how the neighbours wondered what the hell all the noise was in aid of, and how the stench of Micah Sloat's ghastly cologne still can't be shifted. Alas, his droning accented monotone takes the whole enterprise 100% seriously, and it badly needed someone else to puncture his balloon.
2) An alternate ending (at least two were screen tested, before they went for the less ambiguous allegedly-suggested-by-Spielberg-bring-the-house-down one that was seen in cinemas).
3) The (cough) 'best' entrants in the 'Film Your Own Paranormal Activity' competition run by Paramount to tie in with the movie's release, a collection of short clips that amply demonstrate how 'ideas' and 'execution' are two bits of lightning rarely captured in the same bottle.
'I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought...'
So, now the dust has settled, 'Paranormal Activity' isn't going to walk away with the prize: for a few viewers it will genuinely be the scariest thing they've ever seen, but for others more accustomed to the breaks and beats of standard Hollywood movie fare it requires a patience for the pay-off that they simply won't possess. In the cinema screening I attended there was actual snoring as well as teenage girls out of their depth screaming their heads off, but for most of us willing to buy into its conceit and construction it is what it is: an effectively creepy little flick. It's certainly encouraging that after a decade where increasingly lame entries in the Hostel and Saw franchises were content to sling various chunks of viscera at the screen, here was a film looking to scare rather than sicken.
And if you're troubled by strange noises in the middle of the night, or you experience feelings of dread in your basement or attic...if the answer is 'yes', then don't wait another minute. Don't just cower on your bed, and whatever you do don't go and investigate. Just jump under the legendary Duvet of Invulnerability. That always works for me.
Trailer (which you maybe shouldn't watch, because it rather gives the ending away):
Running time: 83 mins
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Michael Bayouth, Mark Fredrichs, Ashley Palmer
Written and directed by: Oren Peli
Rated 15 for 'strong language and threat'
(Previously on Ciao)
A good horror film can be hard to find these days. Some many recent efforts fail to scare me in the slightest, with only one or two exceptions. I can honestly say that, at times, Paranormal Activity provided genuine scares.
The movie presents itself as 'found footage', we are made to believe that everything we see is genuine. Therefore, it is shot in a camcorder style, but works better than movies such as The Blair Witch Project and is less likely to induce motion sickness. This 'amateur look' makes it scarier in my opinion.
I won't spoil the plot here but I'll attempt to describe the style of horror. Although there are a few jump out of your skin moments, it's the intensity between these moments in which you are watching and waiting for something to happen that are the most effective.
The cast is unknown actors which is for the best as household names would ruin the nature of the movie.
If you are looking for a scary night in, rent or purchase this film and you will not be disappointed.
Katie (Katie Featherstone) and her boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloat) move into a new house. Katie confides in Micah that she has been haunted since she was eight years old by an unknown entity. Micah, who is not convinced by his girlfriend's beliefs, decides to videotape their nights at the house. As seemingly paranormal activity commences and odd things show up on the video, the couple enlist the help of a psychic. The psychic, sensing the presence of the paranormal, tells Katie is unable to help, but advises they enlist the aid of a colleague of his who is a demonologist. He believes that the house isn't haunted, rather it is Katie who is being pursued by a malicious demon an area outside of his remit. Against the psychic's advice, Micah decides to taunt and aggravate the demon with disastrous us results...
I am going to go out on a limb here and do some stereotyping in my review. "Paranormal Activity" is the type of psychological horror clearly aimed at those semi-secular types who are still wary of Ouija boards, occasionally read horoscopes and think haunted houses are plausible. It's the sort of audience who are susceptible to the "god of the gaps" logical fallacy and the "argument from ignorance" logical fallacy. In other words anything that they feel is somehow unexplained (or at least they cannot understand) is quite possibly the work of supernatural forces. They aren't devout religious types in the typical sense of the word or even full blown New Age fanatics, but they find the mysterious and the mystical intriguing and titillating. However, they have no obvious desire to look for rational and scientific reasons behind quirky phenomena and would rather just believe that are otherworldly things out there. These are the types that allow pseudoscientific nonsense like "Ghost Hunters" to flourish. Because this is the sort of viewership in mind, "Paranormal Activity" has to do very little to impress or suspend belief. This means that those of us who love good horrors, supernatural and otherwise, but have a basic understanding of reason and logic in the real world are left feeling somewhat cheated.
I did have high hopes for "Paranormal Activity" after having a discussion with another horror movie fan regarding the end of the "torture porn" era. With a new decade upon us it looked like the horror genre had exhausted its pushing of the taboo envelope with its sadistic style murders and films like "Paranormal Activity", which has proved to be commercial hit, suggested a return to psychological themes. Unfortunately the film is both unoriginal and annoyingly difficult to take seriously. The regular rental DVD offers an alternate and theatrical version of the film. I watched the alternate version, expecting it to be more edgy, but having read the synopsis now of the original I cannot see I have missed much. The fact that people were supposedly leaving theatres because it scared them too much inspires more fear in me about the way many people think today than the actual film itself.
Essentially it is another stealing of "The Blair Witch Project" with added special effects. "The Blair Witch Project" was something of an Emperor's New Clothes thing for me anyway. I admired the marketing of the film and I actually enjoyed the mockumentary that was made as part of the pre-release publicity more than the film. However, in the end the single camera eye view and the lack of empathy I felt for the characters just did not hold me. There were much better films before and after Blair Witch, where it was proven this approach could work in the right hands, so I am not a complete neigh-sayer of this approach. I am not a visual effects junkie either. The original "The Haunting" is still a very effective and classic example of how not seeing the supernatural menace can provide more horror for your buck.
The story of "Paranormal Activity" did not draw me in at all. The back-story is uninteresting, the actors' performances are unconvincing and the way the whole story plays out lacks suspense, shocks or dread. Unfortunately my view is in a minority, which means that there is now "Paranormal Activity 2" out there and probably a whole host of imitators too. I was really hoping that films like this that do not rely on sadistic torture and intentionally distasteful themes would herald in a new era of genuine horror. Unfortunately what seems to be on the menu now is exploitation of the sad credulity of our supposedly enlightened times. Anticipate pictures about floating orbs, weird noises on recording equipment (perhaps the universal panning "White Noise" received was just bad timing!) and other debunked rubbish all dressed up with CGI effects.
I had heard a lot about this movie from the minute it was released but never cared too much to see it, it sounded a little too much like the Blair Witch Project for me and I decided to give it a miss. Until my boss borrowed me the DVD and insisted I watch it...
The movie is filmed as if through an amateur video camera and follows young couple katie and Micah as they are haunted by something in their new home. The movie goes from daytime scenes, where we see the couple discussing this paranormal activity, to nighttime scenes, where we are watching the couple sleep.
In the first night scene that we are shown, we see the bedroom door move a few inches, then move back to where it started. This seems to be the ghost giving a small sign that they are there. As the nights go by, the things that we see get slightly worse.
Eventually, the couple call in a specialist who informs them that there is a demon in the house, not a ghost. Once they know this, they try to find ways to rid the demon and begin to anger it. Making it's actions worse.
That is all I will give you, if you want to know more then watch it!
As I have already said, I did not want to watch this as it sounded a little like the Blair Witch Project which freaked me out enough to put me off amateur camera horrors! However, I did not find Paranormal Activity as scary as the Blair Witch and enjoyed it, to a point.
The story line was very clever and I liked the way that we could watch what the demon was doing throughout the night. However, it did frustrate me that the next day the couple did not discuss what had happened the night before and, most days, did not even seem the check the tapes!!
Also, Micah really annoyed me throughout the film and I was praying for the demon to just come and kill him so he wouldn't bug me for any longer!!
To make things really annoying, they are releasing a Paranormal Activity 2. Obviously, the first one was not actual footage, however, it was advertised to be actual footage and it has annoyed me that they have ruined this by releasing a second!
I would recommend this movie as it was quite clever but at the same time, I don't think I will be watching it again any time soon.
In 1999 a film came out that was a masterpiece in marketing. That film was The Blair Witch Project, made for peanuts and passed off as a real event, the film captured imaginations and went on with pull in well over $100 million worldwide.
Nearly a decade later we have Paranormal Activity, a film which can't help but draw comparisons to Blair Witch's success. Both are low budget video productions with small casts, marketed as real life chilling tales and both laughed their way to the bank.
I had the luxury of seeing Blair Witch before it ever got a cinema release in the UK so I saw it without the hype it had attached by the time UK audiences saw it. Behind the hype, that film was actually a well-orchestrated piece of horror.
I just don't understand how Paranormal Activity gained the same sort of box office reaction. Firstly we already know that the premise of it being real life footage is bogus. That takes some of the scare element out of it straight away. The 'story' follows a young couple in their new home, after experiencing various bumps in the night they set-up a video camera in their bedroom to capture any night-time occurrences. It seems there's a demon hanging around and he getting angrier as the couple delve deeper into finding out how to rid their home of this paranormal activity.
Everything is shot in a real perspective with the couple interacting whilst operating the camera. It's certainly a home video style and there's no flashy panache to it. As a couple, the two actors in the film are believable and likeable for the most part. Unlike low budget shark thriller Open Water, you actually have some affection for the horrors on screen the characters are going through.
I will give props to the orchestration of some of the demon effects on show in the film. No there's no CGI fire blazing devils, just subtle things like footprints appearing in talc, shadows on doors, stuff like that.
But ultimately I just found the film a tad boring, not really that involving and above all else not very scary. I guess it didn't tap into my fears. If I was faced with the film on a large screen in a dark theatre then the experience may have been different. So perhaps on the small screen, Paranormal Activity loses some of its hyperbole.
For me, I judge most horror's these days against others that did actually scare and unnerve me. The only film to really do that to me in recent memory is The Descent. This home video chiller doesn't come close yet took tons more money - go figure.
- The Disc -
I saw this movie on Blu-ray. Of course the production quality isn't a Hollywood standard. The video quality is good enough, the sound at times is muffled but I guess that's part of the home movie feel the film intends.
The disc offers a theatrical version and an alternate version to view. Both have similar run times and all they seem to share is a different ending. The alternate ending is a bit more graphic and doesn't Segway into the inevitable sequel they have rushed out for this Halloween.
Other than that you have the alternate ending on its own as well as a winner of a Paranormal Activity contest where someones shot their own home movie chiller.
Overall I'd wait till this shows up on TV, it's not worthy of the hype and if you seriously find it scary then you need to search out better films.
This horror film was released on 25 November 2009 in the UK. Directed and written by Oren Peli, this film had an estimated $11,000 budget and yet turned over $107,917,283 by January 2010 in the USA alone.
The inspiration for this film is rumoured to have came from Oren Pelis move to a suburban house similar to the one in the film, some say that the film was shot in his own house whether it is true or not is not confirmed.
The film is shot by the two main characters so it looks more like a home movie than something professional, however it all adds to the viewing.
There are two main characters, Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat the actors retained their real names throughout the film. There are a few other people who enter into the film at different points but the main point are the young couple.
The storyline is about a young middle class couple who move into a suburban 'tract' starter house. They become disturbed by a presence that may or may not be demonic as told to them by a psychic. It is most active throughout the night and a series of experiments show the various goings on.
When I first viewed this film I was under the impression that this was a true story at least based on one but after some research it seems that there is no truth at all in this story.
It is definately good viewing and hide behind the cushion scary however it's not something I would want to watch again purely for the fact that you know the outcome. Another thing I dislike about the film is that is has 3 seperate endings I think it would have been better to have one ending and stuck to it.
The movie is definately popular and good viewing just don't watch it alone in the dark. . . .
I watched this film and to be honest didnt think as much of it as other people have with the hype. In parts i would actually say it is quite boring. Its a slow starter and yes in parts it does live up to the name of a true thriller/horror film but they only scary parts in it are the experiences you can compare it to being in that true scenario. The main actors and actresses are very good and maybe makes it there own because neither of them are particulaly well known. There is a cheesy part in the film involving footsteps and this ended the excitement of the film for me. I would reccomend it to be a film to watch but not a film to purchase because once you see it - it really isnt a film you will want to watch over and over. Overall impression low budget film with mediocur script but some small scary parts.
RELEASED: 2007, Cert.15
RUNNING TIME: Approx. 85mins
DIRECTOR, PRODUCER & SCREENPLAY WRITER: Oren Peli
Katie (Katie Featherston)
Micah (Micah Fredrichs)
I love a good creepy film, and was pleased to see Paranormal Activity (which I'd heard very positive things about) for sale in my local Sainsbury's DVD clearout for a mere £3. Despite being told by quite a few people that it's a very good film, they'd revealed nothing about the plot, so I watched it raw, not really knowing what to expect. I envisaged it would be a standard type of psychological thriller/ghostly sort of movie with all the usual hallmarks such as strange noises in the night, the token thunderstorm and candles flickering in the top tower of a Gothic mansion somewhere in New England.
On clicking the 'play' button and observing the very first part of the film, I was first intrigued that the general setting was so far away from tradition that it interested me, yet I was also rather bored and confused. I felt that the camera angles were too jerky and clumsy - making my head spin after a while - plus I felt that the diction from the actors, particularly Katie Featherston, was poor and it was difficult to comprehend what she was saying. For some reason though I stuck with it, and I'm very glad I did.
Katie moves into her boyfriend Micah's beautiful Californian house....the first question which struck me was, how could someone so young afford a house like that?
It seems that wherever she goes, and as far back as her childhood, Katie has been followed and 'haunted' by some sort of 'presence'. Micah wants to help nail this phenomenon, so he sets up cameras around the house and tweaks his computer network to pick up on various 'happenings' when Katie's inner resident spook begins its activities.
The couple seek advice from a paranormal expert, who informs them that it's not a ghost - more like a demon-type thing, and recommends somebody else whose expertise is more in that field of the paranormal....unfortunately, the person he recommends is away and can't attend the house at that time.
The film is largely set over a few consecutive evenings and nights, during which Katie's 'demon' (for want of a better expression) torments the couple with strange voices, opening and closing doors, and a plethora of other spooky goings-on. As time passes, Katie becomes more distressed, and Micah is keen to communicate with the 'demon'.
Once the initial confusion (for me) of the movie had settled, I began to enjoy certain aspects of it and was interested in the filming style, which was done in an almost 'fly on the wall' documentary genre. Most, if not all of the scenes were short and clipped, and it had all the hallmarks of a play rather than a movie, or perhaps even reality TV.
Another thing which pleased me was that there were no silly moments....all of the 'haunting' (for want of a better expression) was done with a degree of subtlety - there were no 'Krugeresque' blood and guts scenes, no bodies falling from cupboards with samurai swords pierced through their innards and no demonic children with their heads spinning whilst projectile vomiting green gunge.
The buildup was nicely laid-back, although I can't say that the acting abilities of the two main characters made me want to award them any accolades, but looking at it from another angle, maybe that's what was so good about it? I felt that I was actually watching the real lives of a real, non-fictional young couple having to deal with a malevolent paranormal phenomenon which had invaded their privacy and entered straight into their relationship. Once past the first post of desperate confusion, this settled into what I can only describe as a strange, rather short film which managed to come across as very realistic.
Aside from the disjointed beginning, the only real complaint I do have about the film as a whole, is that I was rather disappointed with the ending. I'm not clear as to what I expected or what I would want an alternative ending to be, but I don't like it as it stands.
Though I may leave a large expanse of time before doing so, I enjoyed Paranormal Activity enough to want to watch it again in the future, so sorry charity shop - you're not having this one....well, not just yet. I have a feeling that with one or two subsequent viewings, I may see something more in the movie as a whole than what I've just witnessed this evening. To me, that is one hallmark of a reasonable, or even good film - further viewings can reveal aspects that had previously been overlooked.
Another minor little gripe was that if this were a real-life situation - and though I know the film is fictional, it was presented as such - I think the couple would have been a lot more frightened and unnerved than how they actually appeared. I know I would have been scared crapless myself if I were in the same situation, especially if I knew (as Katie was told by the paranormal expert) that she was carrying the phenomenon around with her and that it wasn't the house which was the problem. One can move away from a 'haunted house', but one can't get away from oneself, as we carry us around with us all the time.
I would strongly recommend Paranormal Activity to anyone who enjoys creepy films, and say that it has been a refreshing change to watch a film of this genre presented from a different angle to usual. If you can grit your teeth through the first 15 or so minutes of the film, past the confusing camera angles and disjointed speech, once you get into the body of it, it's an all-change situation where you become drawn into what's happening and it becomes....not what I'd call riveting exactly, but certainly very watchable and it held my attention in a fixed way until the very end, even though I'd by no means say it's anywhere near the best horror film of all time.....it's interesting rather than blockbusting.
Currently, Paranormal Activity can be purchased from Amazon as follows:-
New: From £4.99 to £25.40
Used: From £2.98 to £12.00
A delivery charge of £1.24 must be added to the above prices.
Thanks for reading!
~~ Also published on Ciao under my CelticSoulSister user name ~~
I first watched this last year and boy did i regret it. but i did also buy it. The film makers are very intelligent with there approach most members of the auidence are lead to believe this film is based on fact, but shortly after the film its apparent it's fiction. It is very scary because the acting is not over the top and it's not ruined by obvious special effects so it looked just like a home made movie that maybe you or I would make, yes i screamed the whole way though my sympathy went out to katie. I think what makes this such a good film is the fact that it plays on the viewers anxiety so your always on the edge of your seat wondering when the entity will make it's exsistence apparent.
The story: Micah and katie move in together everything is fine but katie forgot to mention one little thing. Since was she 8 years old she has been harassed by some sort of entity. and the twist is her childhood home was burnt down and the police couldnt find the cause a burnt picture of her from the childhood home is later found in the attic. It is later realised that she was infact haunted by a demon after being visited by a paranormal investigator. Unexplained things start to happen but they are not cause for concern until micah thinks its a good idea to document the events. He gets a camcorder and starts filming in the night and also starts to taunt the entity. That's when katies safety becomes questionable. To make matters even worse micah decides to buy a ouija board after katie stated she didnt think it was a good idea. The hantings start to get even more aggressive and katie is later physically attacked.
Then the demon starts to let micah know he doesnt like him being with katie he smashes and slashes micahs pictures one day when their down stairs.
After katie is attacked she becomes hysterical and drained from lack of sleep and her behaviour starts to worry micah then she becomes possessed and doesnt wanted to leaver her home claiming everything will get better. micah ends up being killed but did katie or the demon do it? no ones knows. police found micahs body but have never found out where katie is.
I think it is a great film i wouldnt advise minors to watch it i personally think it should be PG 18. I also think that it may be a rip off of paranormal entity, if you liked paranormal astivity, then you'll love that.
Katie (Katie Featherston) and her boyfriend Micah (Micah Sloan) are a young couple in love that have recently moved in together in a two-story tract house in suburban San Diego, California. Katie claims that a ghostly presence has haunted her all her life since she was of a young age and she thinks it may of followed her to their new home. Katie hires a paranormal psychic Dr Fredrichs, who comes to the conclusion she isn't being haunted by a ghost but in fact shes being haunted by a demon.and he tells her she needs to contact demonoligist Dr Johan Averies. Each night Katie and Micah sleep, Micah always leaves his video camera on record. Whilst he records and leaves the camera on a stand the viewers see things and hear strange goings on. For example loud bangs, objects moving and even Katie seemingly possessed by maybe the demon. Things get worse for the young couple however, as Katie gets dragged out of bed and down the stairs one night and shes screaming Micah. Can they both survive what they think is a demon?.
Did You Enjoy It?
In a word, yes. It was a film that was made by Oren Peli (Director) who claims to have witnessed strange goings on as a young boy when growing up. It was a really enjoyable and on edge kind of film. Its a film rather like Blair With Project and Rec. which i enjoyed as well. Although i enjoyed Paranormal Activity some people may get scared as it is rather scary and there are also more than one endings, one of which is damn right freaky and sent shivers to my whole body. All in all its a great, cheap budget film that is really enjoyable.
The story of the film is somewhat interesting, as their aren't many characters in the film the focus of the story is basically on Micah and Katie, who are living their everyday normal lives. The story will keep you on edge and at times the story will creep you out, but the truth being in my opinion it is a rather good storyline and can go on for hours.
Now this ones interesting as I have heard some people saying that the actors in this movie are really breathtakingly good and play their roles really well, but in my own opinion I don't think its up to top notch standards, as you can sometimes see where the characters look to me as their trying too hard with their whole face expressions and dramatic scenes in the movie. However the acting in this movie isn't so bad as to say don't watch this movie, because its really not that bad and the film is quite enthralling. I just think its noticeable where they went wrong in the movie.
The special effects in Paranormal Activity are one of my favorites parts of the film, as for a low budget film they are rather good and seem like an expensive type of film when its not. There are effects like a Oiuga Board that starts moving all over the place and then sets on fire which I think is done really well. Then there are bits like when Micah and Katie are asleep and the door shuts then opens and also slams shut, which I know isn't really hard done but the way they do it looks fantastic. Also when Katie gets dragged down the stairs it isn't just a normal way of dragging something its like a really spooky and crazy way like I have never seen before. The effects all in all surprised me the most as they were better than i expected.
How Does It Compare To Similar Films
Let me tell you straight, its good although not the best. Quarantine was the best type of film that was filmed using a video camera all the way through in a first person perspective or maybe Cloverfield, there are so many nowadays. Its still good I just think in my opinion there are better films that fall into this category, with much better acting and also a better storyline, even though the story isn't all that bad, I loved the story in Cloverfield and Quarantine, and I believe their more better to watch.
Right the soundtrack as i recall, was absolutely useless and boring as there really wasn't too much music as you would probably expect. However the sound of the film is top quality and the noises made by the so called demon/ghost are really good, the music (what there was of it) is just dim and plain as there is nothing scary about it. The music in these films are supposed to help make the audiences more scared and to me I felt like laughing when it came on, because it was that dim witted and rubbish but however this doesn't make the film rubbish as its not.
Oren Peli was born in Israel in 1971 and moved to the United States when he was 19 to become a computer programmer. He worked on a few games that included, the MLB series and Mortal Kombat 3 for the PC. After his short computer programming career, Oren turned his attention to films and wrote and directed Paranormal Activity, this was his first proper film and it turned out to be a major success, as now hes working on Area 51 which was a computer game and hes also working on Paranormal Activity 2 but only as a producer. In my opinion I think Oren has directed this film to the best he can with only a low budget and I also think he has done a rather good job for someone that came out of the programming business.
Value For Money
Yeah i certainly would agree with most people and say that Paranormal Activity is well worth its value. Its edgy and scary which makes all the good characteristics for a great horror film. There are plenty of bonus features and different endings, most films only have the one ending and with this film having several, I believe it makes it more value for money. Also for a big selling movie at cinema's and in shops its really cheap and certainly worth every penny.
Pro's And Cons
The Pro's of this film are definitely the story, special effects and the fact it will scare you at some point, everyone likes being scared at a film and having to cuddle with someone their close too.
The cons of this movie, well to be fair are, the acting just isn't top notch standards and the soundtrack, I cant contemplate how bad the soundtrack really is, its just miserable. However I don't care to much about the soundtrack as its the film i'm interested in.
Bits And Bobs
This film contains strong language and scenes that some viewers may get scared of or really frightened. The runtime for this movie is 86 minutes or 99 minutes if you have the extended version which includes more footage. In my opinion I would recommend this movie for maybe a couple to curl up together and watch and I wouldn't recommend watching it alone unless you can handle scary movies. Also some people say this is a true story, however it isn't, its based on Oren Peli' who witnessed some sort of Paranormal Activity when he was a young boy.
Also on ciao with same username :)
I watched this film a couple of weeks ago and it terrified me. To be honest I didn't enjoy the first 20 minutes of the film because I wasn't enjoying the way it was being filmed - in the style of the Blair Witch Project. However as the film progress it really did add to the atmosphere.
I love watching horror movies and haven't seen a really good one for ages until Paranormal Activity! I really enjoyed the 'unknown'. Most horrors give everything away at the start but this one really did keep you guessing. I also like the way the film built you up. It was all quite mild with only a couple of jumpy moments but as the film continued it got scarier.
I don't want to say too much about the plot of this film as I think it would ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it. I watched this film knowing nothing about the plot and enjoyed it more because I didn't know what to expect.
Obviously everyone has their own personal opinions about films they watch but if you enjoy horror movies I would recommend watching this one.
I've not always been a fan of scary movies, in fact, I rarely watch them that often so, I had yet found one which lured me to the genre yet Paranormal Activity was fantastic and has really got me wanting to watch more.
Firstly, I watched it with a few mates at around 2AM with all the lights off as this is always the best when watching scary films as I believe it adds to the atmosphere. This worked well, so I would recommend doing this as well if you can't see it in the cinema which of course, you no longer can (unless you're lucky enough to have a home cinema).
The story in the film is that a tape has been found by the police in the house of a young couple, called Katie and Micah. This tape documents the couples lives and investigation into the supernatural being which has haunted Katie since she was a child. The film is mostly split into two different types of footage.
The first type being that of them during the day where they analyse the footage of the night and discuss what they can do about the haunting presence. They also discuss about Katie and her past which makes the story deeper and really adds a great deal to the film as it stops it from being just a scary film, but also an interesting and good storyline as well which sets it apart from other scary films.
The second type is footage from the night when Katie and Micah are sleeping. We know that it is from the night as there is a clock on the camera telling us the time of filming. The camera is set up in the corner of their room facing the door which is left open during the night. They also leave a hallway light on. This type of footage is the scary footage, and this is when you see what the possessor of Katie is doing.
There are two endings to this film. I have seen both of them and I must say that the ending which they chose to show in the cinema is a lot better than the alternate ending. If you have a choice, then watch the theatrical ending, not the alternate ending.
I would definitely recommend this film, as it is genuinely brilliant and probably, one of the best films which I have seen this year. In a lot of horror films, music spoils the suspense and tension but as this film has no music, you are on edge at all times as you don't know what is going to happen. Currently, this film can be bought for around £6 in HMV, but you can probably find it cheaper online. Even if you have never been scared or been attracted to watch a scary film, then watch this one as it could well change your perception of these films. There is also a Paranormal Activity 2 coming out this year so, I'll definitely be going to watch that at the cinema which should make the films even better.